Article Alert! New texts in discard studies (Nov & Dec 2017)

Since critical discard studies doesn’t (yet!) have its own journal, conference, or department, Discard Studies publishes a regular table of contents alerts for articles, reports, and books in the field. If you are interested in becoming an editor for non-English article alerts on Discard Studies, or know of a recent article for the next article alert, please contact Max Liboiron:


Bloomfield, B. P., & Doolin, B. (2017). Landfarming: A contested space for the management of waste from oil and gas extraction. Environment and Planning A, 0308518X17730582.
The extraction of unconventional hydrocarbons, particularly through hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’), has generated both support and opposition in many countries around the globe. Along with arguments about economic benefits, decarbonisation, transition fuels and groundwater contamination, etc., the rapid expansion of this industry presents a pressing problem as regards the disposal of the resultant waste – including drilling and cutting material, oil and gas residues, various chemicals used in the process, salts and produced water. One putative solution – ‘landfarming’ – is a disposal process that involves spreading oil and gas waste on to land and mixing it with topsoil to allow bioremediation of the hydrocarbons. This paper examines the case of landfarming in New Zealand where the practice has proved controversial due to its association with fracking, fears about the contamination of agricultural land and potential danger to milk supplies. Drawing upon Gieryn’s notion of cultural cartography and boundary work as well as the literature on the politics of scale it analyses the struggles for epistemic authority regarding the safety of landfarming. The paper concludes that scalar practices were central to the production of knowledge (and ignorance) in these credibility struggles, and that the prevailing cultural cartography of knowledge remained the arbiter and basis for policy. The case has wider implications in terms of the management of waste from unconventional hydrocarbons as well as other environmental issues in which the politics of scale figure in contested knowledge claims.

Kallianos, Y. (2017). Infrastructural disorder: The politics of disruption, contingency, and normalcy in waste infrastructures in Athens.  Environment & Planning D, advanced proof.
This paper considers infrastructure from the point of view of disorder. During the last few years, waste management controversies have proliferated in Greece, reflecting a generalized feeling of mistrust towards the authorities. In this context, and in relation to the socio-economic crisis that erupted there in 2010, a set of diverse and even antithetic practices, imaginations, and circulations of flows have (re)emerged around waste treatment processes. By looking at the intermingling of formal and informal practices around waste flows and landfill processes in Athens, the paper asks how uncertainty, contingency and instability shape the governance and everyday experience of waste infrastructures. Examining the ways in which the normalization of regular disruption and instability plays out in waste treatment in Athens, it makes the case for understanding disorder as inherent to infrastructure.

James, L. N. (2017). “The Power of Filth”: Dirt, Waste, and Gender in Modern Fiction, 1890-1945” Dissertation: Stony Brook University.
Scholarship on hygiene in early-twentieth-century literature usually emphasizes modernist rejections of linguistic waste in favor of a new, “clean” aesthetic. However, this project argues that modern writers use literary depictions of physical filth and the period’s new methods of hygiene management as moments of generative potential. The filth that stains the pages of early-twentieth-century novels—the dust, smoke, trash, and bodily waste that rupture literary narratives—tells us much about the period’s infrastructural modernization of both gender and the novel. Writers as diverse as Bram Stoker, Virginia Woolf, and D. H. Lawrence focus on various kinds of dirt and waste, illustrating how new methods for negotiating filth unevenly affected women depending on their class and race. Drawing on thing theory, dirt studies, and infrastructure studies, I examine the connections between hygiene modernization and cultural constructions of gender across a range of the period’s literary and historical texts, exploring how dirt and waste management is rendered a practice of both possibility and restriction in the early twentieth century. Moreover, tracing the circulation of filth in literary narratives reveals how modernized sanitation practices and technologies impacted and shaped the strategies of textual representation employed by several modern writers in their renovations of the novel form. The Power of Filth argues that tracing the presence of dirt and waste in the period’s literary and cultural imaginaries complicates the binaries that structure our understanding of the modern period: the public and the private; the cultural and the natural; subject and object; and the high- and middlebrow. Examining filth in the modern period challenges our assumptions about dirt and waste as worthless matter; instead, modern fiction demonstrates that they hold within them powerful accounts of modernity and modernization.

Lohnes, J., & Wilson, B. (2017). Bailing out the food banks? Hunger relief, food waste, and crisis in Central AppalachiaEnvironment and Planning A, 0308518X17742154.
In 2015, West Virginia’s flagship food bank confronted a financial crisis that threatened to cut off the supply of emergency food to some 600 agencies serving 300,000 people a month. Focusing on this crisis, we explore the evolution of charitable food networks across the United States with a particular focus on the role of food banking within agro-industrial supply chains. Drawing on a three year institutional ethnography of West Virginia’s food banking economy, we analyze the transition from producer to buyer driven supply chains in a network that is dependent on charitable giving and affective labor to process surplus foods and revalue obsolete corporate inventories. We argue that food banks and their affiliate agencies have become key institutions within a vast food destruction network increasingly serving the needs of large food firms. While food banks and their affiliate agencies provide tax relief for food corporations and offer a highly efficient vent for state subsidized and corporate food waste, they are primarily funded by community-based organizations who are themselves stretched thin by economic crises within their own locales. The entrenchment and evolution of the food waste qua hunger relief circuit is producing new tensions in a network that is conflicted over whom they are ultimately working for, and sheds light on the paradox of hunger relief in the 21st-century.

Trash City Gull Fauna Urban Animals Bird Plumage

Nading, A. and Fisher, J. (2017). Zopilotes, Alacranes, y Hormigas (Vultures, Scorpions, and Ants): Animal Metaphors as Organizational Politics in a Nicaraguan Garbage Crisis. Antipode advanced proof.
While scholars frequently frame conflicts over urban waste in terms of a politics of infrastructure, this article frames such conflicts in terms of a politics of organization. In 2008, self-employed recyclers in and around Managua, Nicaragua blockaded local dumps in an effort to secure rights to scavenge for resellable material. Over the course of this “garbage crisis”, a material and semiotic entanglement of human labor organization with animal ecology became politically salient. At different points, recyclers were compared to ants (hormigas), vultures (zopilotes), and scorpions (alacranes). State officials, NGOs, and recyclers themselves used these animal metaphors to describe the organization of waste collection. Drawing on theories of value from political ecology and economic anthropology, as well as analysis of the deployment of these “organic” metaphors, we outline an “organizational politics” of urban waste.

Retamal, M., and Schandl, H., (2017). Dirty Laundry in Manila: Comparing Resource Consumption Practices for Individual and Shared Laundering Journal of Industrial Ecology. Advanced publication.
Changing lifestyles in developing and emerging economies entail a shift in technology use, everyday practices, and resource consumption. It is important to understand the sustainability consequences of these changes and the potential for policy to guide practices toward more sustainable lifestyles. In this study, we investigate laundry practices in the City of Manila, the Philippines, and compare the resources consumed in three different modes of laundering. We examine (1) traditional washing by hand, (2) washing by machine at home, and (3) using a laundry service. In addition to comparing the consumption of water, energy, and detergents, we also examine the social aspects of laundering using the lens of social practice theory. We use empirical data gathered in interviews with laundry service operators and people laundering at home to undertake qualitative and quantitative analyses of laundry practices and resource consumption. We find that hand washing uses the least water and energy, but large quantities of detergents. Machine washing and laundry services are comparable for water consumption, but energy use is much higher for services as they use dryers. Social changes, such as an increase in work available for women and the nature of future housing, are likely to influence the dominance of either shared or individual laundering methods. These findings illustrate the social complexity of transitions to product-service systems and the interdependencies between their social and environmental impacts.